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The Cold

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Estimated reading time — 16 minutes

It’s mid January, and, as I had recently turned 19, I had decided that it was time to take a rite of passage to manhood so to speak. So after nagging my parents (my mother mostly to be honest) for weeks, they had finally caved to my pleas to take a trip alone to our cabin we had in the North Rocky Mountains for about 2 weeks. My family was what you would call the outdoorsy type. We were out camping at least 3 times a month. We often spent entire days hiking, hunting, fishing, or canoeing. Me and my siblings (my sister included) had shot, cleaned, and eaten more deer and hogs than we could count, and our freezer was always stocked with freshly caught fish. So surviving outdoors was not a problem for us, however, ever since the death of my uncle my mom had been more and more protective of us. So yes, it took some convincing, but now here I was, driving up a winding road, cherishing the beautiful scenery as I made my ascent.

My phone buzzed. A call from my oldest brother. I quickly dove for it. As I got deeper into the mountains, this would likely be my phone call before I lost cell service.

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“John! You -ere bud?” His voice was already breaking up.

“I’m here Dylan. What’s up man?”

“Ah, nothi-. Just call- to check up on you for mo-. You are her baby. And she worri-” He said with a chuckle

This was true. As the youngest, my mother had always been more protective of me than my other siblings. It was nice to hold it over my other siblings head, although sometimes the care I received was a bit much.

“Naw doing good so far.” I reassured him. “Just about there actually. But hey I’m about to lose service. I’ll be off the grid for about 2 weeks. If I decide to stay 3, I’ll head back down so I can call and give you guys a heads up.”

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“Sounds good, I’ll let you get to it.” He laughed. “Don’t let yourself get eaten by any-“

I looked down at my phone. No service. Smiling, I threw my phone down on top of the duffel bag next to me. I was cut off from the world. This was going to be a great 2 weeks.

The first 3 days were uneventful. I hunted, gathered wood, lounged about, and took day long hikes, just me and my thoughts. It was heaven really.

Day 4. That’s when it all started to go to hell.

I had just shot a deer, a buck nonetheless. And I don’t like to brag but it was a big one. By far the biggest I have ever shot. It’s antlers spanned 4 feet, and would probably have kept me fed for most, if not all, of the remaining time I would spend here.

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But there was no way I could carry it back to the cabin, or even drag it. So I started carving it there and then. I leaned my rifle against a tree and got to work. I slit it open, pulling out its intestines and other organs, washing away the blood with handfuls of snow, and began cutting it into smaller pieces.

I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and it was mid afternoon now. I was pretty hungry. So I cut off a decent sized portion of venison, stabbed my knife into the tree above my rifle, and headed back to the cabin. my plan was to roast it slowly over the fire while I went back to finish up some more with the deer, and by the time I came back, it would be ready.

So I got to the cabin, started a fire, and put the deer on the grate above it, used the fire for a bit to warm up, and headed back out. I trudged through the snow, making my way back to the deer. I was about 5 minutes from the spot, when I felt a strange chill. It was cold, of course, the thermometer at the cabin had read 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

But this was different. It seeped through my well bundled body, penetrating my core. I glanced around, I’m not sure why, but I did. And I saw something. A dark figure, about my height, duck behind a tree, about 15 yards away. This didn’t generally worry me. This was a public mountain, and it was a beautiful time of the year to come.

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Why wouldn’t there be other people up here?

“Hey buddy!” I called. No response

“Hey you lost man?”

Nothing. I called once more. Still nothing. Maybe I was seeing things. I considered going over to investigate the tree, but thought better of it. It was cold, I had food cooking at the cabin, and I didn’t want anything getting to my deer. Wolves were a problem out here.

So with a sigh, I continued to the spot of the deer.

The area was spotless when I arrived. At first I thought I had misplaced my steps, the deer was at another area. But no. There was my knife, still wedged into the tree, right above my rifle. I walked over and yanked out my knife, then picked up my rifle. A glint caught my eye. I looked down at my knife. It was spotless. I had left the knife the way it was, covered in blood and bits of meat, when I had stuck it in the tree. But now it was impossibly clean, even the tip, where I had stuck it in the tree, was shiny and clean. I turned around. There was nothing there. I mean there was literally nothing there. When I had left, the ground had been covered with blood, pieces of meat, bits of intestines strung about, and-most noticeably a deer. But now there was nothing. The ground was a pristine white, it looked as if there had never been anything there to begin with, not even foot prints, of the culprits or my own, I realized with a start. The snow looked untouched. The only footprints were those of the ones i had made right then. I lifted up my foot and put it back down. It sank into the snow with an icy crunch.

The snow was old. Very old i knew. It hadn’t snowed since the 4 days I’d been there. Every crunch of my boots was a reminder of that. So there was no logical explanation as to why there were no longer any footprints in the snow, or anything in the snow for that matter. An entire butchering site, gone. Every sliver of meat and drop of blood. In the span of 20 minutes. Stumbling backwards, I turned and ran all the back to the cabin. I expected, at least, to return to the smell of cooked venison. That was gone too.

I went to bed early that night.

The next day, today, was when it all ended. Yesterday’s events had shook me. But this. This was different. I had spent all day inside. Our cabin, unlike most, was solar powered, and we had working lights, a fridge, a stove. What my father has refused to add, however was a heating system, opting instead to just install a big fireplace in the living room, and 2 smaller ones in the bedrooms, saying it ruined the camping experience. As if the working lights and plumbing didn’t already do that. But that was fine by us really. The cabin was midsized, had only 2 bedrooms, a bigger one for my 2 brothers, father and myself to sleep in, and a smaller one for my mother and sister to sleep in. Besides that, it had one small bathroom, a small kitchen since we opted to do most of our cooking outside anyway, and a small living room. It didn’t take much to keep the cabin toasty, even on the coldest days. Especially since I just shut the bedroom doors to keep the heat in the main part of the cabin. So staying indoors was not uncomfortable. Glamping, as my buddy Jax says.

I spent the day writing, sleeping and reading. I cooked a few packs of frozen hotdogs my dad insisted we keep in the cabin for food. It was a good day, and the bizarre events of the other day quickly fell away. I still could not explain the reasons as to why it had happened, but I didn’t care. I wrote it off as a strange phenomenon of nature. Some hungry wolves had dragged it away, licked up all spare traces of blood and guts, even off my knife. And as for the footprints, and the figure behind the tree…I didn’t know, or particularly care at that moment, as I had noticed the fire had died down once again. I had spent the day restocking it with the small pile of wood we kept in the house. All at once, I felt the same strange chill from yesterday. This time I wrote it off as the dying fire letting a chill into the air. I glanced outside. It was already 9, and almost pitch black. Luckily I had stockpiled a nice pile of wood. Right on the side of the house. So I wouldn’t have to go to my area and chop some. I pulled on my jacket, but the chill remained. I opened the door and flipped on the outside light, as the small sliver of moon hanging above me did little to brighten up my surroundings. Where was a full moon when you needed it.

I walked down the steps and towards the side of the cabin, were the pile of wood was, my boots crunching noisily in the snow. I rounded the corner and ran into

Nothing.

The wood was gone. Not a single sliver of wood remained. Even with little light I could see that. As if there had never been any there in the first place. I turned towards the woods.

I was scared and angry. We had no neighbors. Not for at least 3 miles. And even he was a half senile old man by the name of Herb. The kind of man who took crack shots into the woods for fun, or who brewed his own moonshine. I turned back towards the woods, watching it tensely. Herb was kind though, and could chop his own wood. He wouldn’t do this, and probably couldn’t either at his age. So who did this? I looked down. No footprints again. I needed more wood. It was too cold to sleep the night without a fire. I started to turn to go back when a branch in the woods snapped, sounding like a gunshot. I spun again, looking and listening closely. I stood there for about 5 minutes. No more noise sounded from the dark forest. Walking backwards slowly, I continued on to the cabin.

Back inside, I seethed as I bundled up. First thing tomorrow, I was calling the ranger. I grabbed my axe, flashlight and my knife. I considered bringing my rifle. But I figured I would be fine. If someone was in the woods, they probably wouldn’t come armed to steal someone’s wood. No. My axe and knife was enough. But as I stepped outside. That chill came again. But it was worse this time. It felt like icy sludge flowing through my body. I glanced at the thermometer. It had plummeted from 15 degrees to -5 degrees Fahrenheit in the time it took me to go inside and get ready.

It took 12 minutes to reach my spot. It was a small clearing. About 17 stumps resided there, and it was a good spot to get wood, it was where we’d been coming to get it since the cabin had been built. There was a tree I had already cut down earlier, but had not yet chopped into smaller pieces. I didn’t need much for the night. But as I started chopping, the chill I felt continued to get worse and worse. I was shaking badly, I could barely grip the axe.

It started slowly, I didn’t realize it at first. But as it got closer, louder, it penetrated the steady thock of my axe hitting the tree.

A growl.

If you could even call it that. It sounded…broken. Like a smoker clearing their throat mixed with a wolf. I looked up, expecting to see a wolf, maybe a sick one or something.

It wasn’t a wolf.

Not fully anyway. It stood on its hind legs. It’s body was wolf-like enough, though slightly human. It was impossibly skinny. I could count each of its ribs, even through its heavy coat. Its color was…off. To say it was dark black simply wouldn’t do it the justice of just how black it was. It seemed to absorb what little moonlight hit it, and even the light of my flashlight. And it’s eyes. It’s eyes.

It didn’t have any. Just 2 gaping black holes the size of golf balls where eyes should have been. And those holes, if it’s fur was black, these…

They almost seemed to glow. They reminded me of black holes. How they absorb everything, even light itself. They seemed to stare right through me.

It stood about 10 feet away. Arms down at it’s side, panting, impossibly calm for something that looked like it could rip me to shreds in seconds. I stood up straight. I was unsure of what to do. As I stared at it, the chill kept getting worse and worse.

Slowly, as if woken from a deep sleep, it opened it’s mouth impossibly wide, it seemed to stretch all the way around it’s head. I saw a mouthful of crocodile like teeth, dripping with saliva, looking like they could crush bone. It suddenly let out a terrible unnatural screech and threw itself at me.

I jumped turning to run.

Run.

Run.

Run.

That was the only thought going through my head.

I needed to get away, that was obvious. But I only actually made it 2 steps as I suddenly felt a painful twist in my leg and I fell. I turned to see my foot had gotten wedged between 2 rocks.

I looked up. The thing was now in the air, hideous claws reaching towards me, it’s mouth seemed to open in a wide grin as it descended on me. At the last second I rolled, wrenching my leg free with a painful twist, and possibly a crack, I don’t know. I couldn’t hear over the sound of that terrible screech.

I wasn’t fast enough though, and its razor sharp claws ripped into my side as it landed next to me.

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I had expected to feel pain. Like fire. Is how I had heard being stabbed described before. But this wasn’t. It was cold, freezing, like plunging into a lake in the middle of winter. It hit with a shock and spread throughout my entire body.

I gasped, the freezing claws made it impossible to do anything else, and somehow focused through the cold enough to grab my knife and plunge it into the back of the hideous thing that was trying to kill me. It bellowed in pain and anger as a dark thick blood like substance leaked out and it ripped its claws from my side. Warmth instantly returned to my body, though not much. I scrambled up and ran.

Each step shot excruciating pain up my leg. My ankle was badly sprained, and my foot may have been broken. My side was oddly numb, but I knew I couldn’t stop. I kept running. I glanced back, and I’m…i’m not embarrassed in the least to say that I wet myself right there.

Only about 15 feet behind, led by my initial attacker, was a whole pack of them. All unnaturally black, no eyes, mouths open impossibly wide. Somehow I found it in me to run faster. My leg screaming as I wept like a baby while running for my life.

It felt like an eternity before I saw lights up ahead through the trees. My cabin! I let out a sob of relief. I managed to run even faster. I burst out of the forest into the clearing. At this point, screaming like a mad man. I shot up the steps, whipped open the door and slammed it with a loud bang. I expected to hear them hit the door, try to get in, but outside remained eerily quiet. I sank to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably and holding my side, I was too worried about what I might find to check outside. I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t know what those things were, and I didn’t want to! I wanted to curl up and die, I was so scared! I sat that way crying for a long time.

After a while, I shakily stood up and peered out. There was nothing there that I could see. My car sat out there. And the woods a little beyond. But I knew they were still there. Waiting for me. I was sure I could see them running around at the edge of the forest. I was not leaving this cabin. I would bundle up through the cold, fireless night, and in the morning I would break for my car and never come back here.

That was my plan anyway.

But apparently it wasn’t theirs.

In the rooms, glass shattered. I had closed the doors to the rooms, in an effort to keep the heat in the living room and kitchen. Those doors now burst open, one flying off it’s hinges and flying across the room. I wasted no time. I had to get out. I flew out the front door, slamming it behind me in a feeble attempt to slow them down. I ran at full sprint towards the car, the pain in my leg nothing but a distant ache in my mind. I could hear them moving in the woods, that horrible growl seeming to come from everywhere around me. After what seemed like an eternity, what was really a few seconds, I reached the car and grabbed the handle and almost cried in relief when it opened. I jumped in, slammed down the power locks and slapped my thighs for my keys.

My keys.

I had left my keys on the kitchen counter. Instinctively I looked back at the house.

My breath caught in my throat.

Crowded around the windows, staring dead at me were those things. And that’s all they did. Stare. They reminded me of children looking through the window of a candy store, staring longingly at the goods in the window.

At the same time, somehow, I somehow managed to feel a thrill of joy. I had taken automotive class in school. One of the many things I learned then, was how to hotwire a car. I slid my seat back and bent over to pry off the plastic covering. I threw it over my shoulder and was starting to mess with the wires when something hit my car with a loud bang that rocked my car. I shot up and yelped. They had abandoned the house and were now all around my car, some walking upright, some scampering around on all fours, there was even one on the roof. I jumped as one to my right suddenly lunged, cracking the driver side window. I bent over again and found the 2 wires I needed and started trying to spark them. Two more bangs sounded above my head. I was afraid to look up. The banging was now coming from everywhere, my car rocking as they continued slamming it from all sides. I could hear the crack in my window getting bigger.

The car suddenly started with a roar, and I sat up just as my window gave.

It shattered, showering me with glass, the thing once again lunged, but I was moving. Tearing across the small clearing around the cabin. As I approached the woods, I struggled to bring the car around back towards the road. A I flipped a tight u-turn and came to a stop, I saw the pack bounding towards me. For the first time that night, I felt anger. I gunned it, heading towards the road. They continued towards me, growling and screeching. One rather ambitious one jumped in front of me, landing on my hood with a dull thud and rolling over my roof and falling off the back. The rest of them dove out of my way, snarling, and I left the cabin behind.

That was 2 hours ago. I’ve stopped right at the bottom of the mountain to record this and…recover. As best I could anyway. I don’t know what to do. I could call the police, but I doubt they’d believe me. My ankle though. I think it’s bleeding. After the adrenaline left my body, the pain came back full force. I’m going to the hospital. Then I’m calling my family. And then…I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what to do. But I have to keep driving. I still feel that awful chill. I think they’re close by still.

********************

We found John’s body today.

After the second week, we waited. He said 3 weeks at the most, but he said he’d call if he decided to stay 3. When he didn’t, we didn’t think much of it. We reasoned he was too busy to call. After the 4th week went by, we were worried. By the end of the 5th week, I decided to go look for him. Everyone wanted to come. But I couldn’t let them. As the eldest brother and closest to John, I felt it was my responsibility. John was probably jerking around, but in case something has happened, I didn’t want the others to be there to find out.

So I left. I drove down to Wyoming and contacted the ranger around the area. He contacted some paramedics in case John was injured, and we drove up.

Nothing seemed out of place when we arrived. His car was still there, unlocked, as he always left it. The cabin seemed untouched, save for a few hotdog wrappers. All the windows were locked, the bedroom doors closed. The fire pit outside looked untouched. I walked around the cabin while the ranger went a ways into the woods to look for clues to John’s whereabouts.

The outside seemed normal, except for the pile of firewood we always kept out there, it was neat, save for a small messy pile of fresh wood on top that I assumed John had cut.

When neither me or the ranger found anything, we all ventured deeper. After a while we stumbled upon a deer carcass. At first glance, it was obvious animals had been at it. But upon closer inspection, it was clear this was a hunt. A small hole, most likely from John’s rifle, was in its neck, and it had clearly been gutted by a knife.

But no sign of John.

3 hours later, we found him. He was lying face down in the snow, around the small clearing we gathered wood. His left foot was bent at a painful looking angle, wedged between 2 rocks, and his knife was in his ribs. He must have tripped and fallen on the knife. His left hand was clutching his axe, and his other hand was in his jacket pocket.

I was strangely numb. I couldn’t comprehend what I saw. I couldn’t even cry.

I pulled out his right hand to find it wrapped around his phone. I opened it, amazed it still worked. It was open on an audio recording

As we crouched around my brother, listening to it, I couldn’t help but feel scared at the crazy story he wove. After it ended, we sat around in silence, until one of the paramedics spoke.

“The cold” he whispered.

I turned to him. “What did you say?” There was something unsettling about his tone.

“The cold” he said again, louder. “The cold will make you see some crazy things. I’ve heard stories like this before, oddly enough, sometimes the things I’ve heard described are strangely similar to what this boy described. But it’s all in your head. On some level, your body knows its over, that there’s no way out, and sometimes it starts making you see and feel things to cope, to make it easier to comprehend I guess. He said he felt a strange chill. That was the hypothermia setting in. Those claw marks he felt? The knife stabbing him when he fell.”

“But what about everything else?” I asked angrily. “What about the chill he felt before? Or the wood? Or the deer? Or the-“

“Look. Kid.” He said. “You saw it yourself. There’s nothing up here. Maybe your brother was on something”

“My brother doesn’t do drugs. He’s smarter than that.”

The paramedic just shrugged.

I turned back to my brother’s frozen lifeless body. I felt overwhelmingly sad. Here was my brother. My best friend. Laying dead. He deserved better than this. He would have had a good life. He had a loving girlfriend, a nice job. He was liked by everyone. He deserved better. The tears started flowing then.

After we had gotten his body back down the mountain and in a morgue, I checked into a hotel and called my family to break the news. We cried. My mom especially. He really had been her favorite. They were on there way now, coming to bring John back home.

But I had something to do. I logged onto my laptop in my room. I had to see what I could find. My brother was neither crazy or a druggy. Something about all this didn’t add up. His voice had sounded fine on the recording, but how could he have spoken clearly with a knife buried in his ribs? Why did it seem he put no effort in making it back to the cabin, instead opting to record a strange story on his phone? What about the deer, the firewood? Or his car, or the cabin? My brother was more than qualified to survive in the woods, in some ways, more than even my father was.

So how did this happen?

I’ve been trying to find what I can. It’s slow going. There’s a lot of stuff online. Some most likely crazy stories, some I’m not so sure about. In a few hours my family will be here. Maybe we can figure this out together. But as I rub the grainy feeling from my eyes, I stop to look out the window. The only room available was a 4th story room with a clear view of the mountain, cruelly enough. And as I stare out at the dark shape looming over me that took my little brothers life, I feel a cold chill seep through my body.

Credit : OukaiElite

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